Consider the garbage footprint your child leaves behind after each lunch period and then follow the tips presented in this One Small Step interview to start creating waste-free school lunches. In this exclusive interview, LoveToKnow Green Living editor Sally Painter caught up with very green-minded and busy mom, Renata Bodon, founder of One Small Step and asked some important questions about waste-free lunches.
One Small Step Interview
LoveToKnow (LTK): What is the concept of waste-free lunches?
Renata Bodon (RB): A waste-free lunch is a packed lunch for on-the-go that doesn't end with any non-food garbage. Instead of a lunch bag or box full of disposables, the lunch is packed in reusable food storage containers, bags and/or wraps with a reusable bottle, napkin and utensils. For example, in lieu of packing apples in a plastic bag, pack a whole apple or one cut up in a reusable container. Replace a juice box or pouch with a reusable bottle filled with your beverage of choice.
LTK: What inspired you to start One Small Step?
RB: When my daughter was three, she attended a Montessori pre-school that required waste-free lunches. That was five years ago and I had a really hard time finding sturdy kid-friendly containers. Later, I was inundated with news about lead in lunch boxes and the dangers of BPA plastics. After packing a waste-free lunch for a couple of years, I knew about great, safe reusable products. I wanted to share what I found with other parents and make it easier for them to find all these safe products in one place.
Not Just for Kids
LTK: Are all of your products for kids or do you offer items for adults?
RB: I started out with kids in mind, but I found a lot of products that I liked, too. Now, we have products for all ages, from babies to adults.
LTK: What type of products do you carry?
RB: We began with only products for waste-free lunches, but expanded to include other products parents might be shopping for at the same time. We have a selection of safe items for babies such as bibs, BPA-free plastic bottles and sippy cups, and a stainless steel feeding set. We have some green school supplies such as an ecostapler, fun recycled pencils, recycled highlighters, and colorful recycled notebooks. We just started carrying reusable shopping and produce bags.
Fundraising and Donation Opportunities
LTK: How do your donation and fundraising programs work? What are the criteria and who can take advantage of these? Who determines the non-profit organization recipient?
RB: Any non-profit can apply to our fundraising program. They only need to send some basic information to register. We have some marketing information they can use that include sample emails and recycled postcards. The organization will receive 10 to 25 percent of all sales, depending on how the sales are generated such as online, bulk orders or special events at schools. If it is an online sale, the customer enters the organization name at the time of registration.
About Waste-Free Lunch Products
LTK: What are some of the products you carry that can help parents achieve waste-free lunches?
RB: For carrying lunch, we have reusable lunch bags and boxes and for younger kids, backpacks. For carrying food, we have containers in BPA-free plastic or stainless steel; for sandwiches and snacks, we offer reusable bags and wraps. For beverages, you can purchase reusable BPA-free plastic and stainless steel bottles. We also have stainless steel, recycled plastic and bamboo utensils and some newer innovative products in addition to the old favorites such as a thermos or food jar. These are just a few of the various products we have available on our website.
Waste-Free Lunch Tips for Parents
LTK: Can you offer any tips to parents about how they can achieve waste-free lunches?
RB: There are so many great solutions. Start with a goal of eliminating one or two disposables. A cloth napkin is the easiest thing to start with. It can also be used as a placemat. Some of the biggest waste generators volume-wise are disposable juice boxes, plastic bags and bottles. Although some of these can be recycled, they really are very easy to eliminate. There are so many benefits to re-using a bottle besides the reduction in trash. You save money, reduce waste (Do your kids really drink all of the juice? You'll find out because they bring it home). You also have control over what your children drink since you can water down the juice.
Getting Older Children Involved
LTK: Any advice on encouraging older children to opt for a waste-free lunch?
RB: Middle grade and high school kids are harder to encourage, but if you start at the pre-school and elementary level, it will become a habit. To get the kids involved, have them pick out their favorite colors and patterns. Make sure to write their name on everything and remind them, maybe daily, that they should bring everything home. Nothing should go in the garbage. I like that my daughter brings her food scraps home because then I know what she is and isn't eating and can adjust the lunches I send.
Environmental Impact: Lunchtime Trash Video
LTK: Is there any way to quantify the environmental impact of carrying a waste-free lunch?
RB: There is a frequently quoted statistic that "The average child's lunchtime trash totals up to 67 pounds per school year". I wanted to show parents what that looks like so I created a video showing 180 days (a school year) of lunch-time trash. When you see it all lined up, you realize it really does add up. A great local kid's band, The Sippy Cups, wrote a song about waste-free lunches for the video.
Special Thanks to Renata Bodon
LoveToKnow would like to thank Renata Bodon for taking time out of her business schedule to share her thoughts and views on waste-free lunches in this interview about her company, One Small Step.